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Female Batterers, Male Victims

The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence

Clinical Update
By Zur Institute

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Despite what the general population may believe, research has begun to identify a growing trend of women as victimizers in their relationships. It is very hard to consider the idea of women's violence. Some of the objections to this idea are: This is blaming the victim; Women hit only in self-defense; We should not ignore thousands of years of oppression of women and the whole social context of patriarchy and men's power and control over women; Discussing women's violence diminishes the responsibility of men's violence; Women are inherently peaceful, they will turn to violence only in self-defense. However, we believe that ignoring the problem of female batterers is likely to increase the danger to the women themselves and to have a terrible effect on the children. Facing the problem is obvious the first step in the process of preventing violence and healing for the family.


Short Summary Of The Facts And Complexities Involved With Female Battering:

  • Approximately 835,000 men are battered each year by their partners.
  • Men are less likely to report domestic violence by their female partners due to shame, machismo, fear of humiliation by police and male peers, and even fear of retaliation by their perpetrators.
  • While many women who commit Intimate Partner Violence are simply defending themselves against assaults by their partners, as many as 80% of women who murder their husbands have histories of violence and often have extensive criminal records.
  • Recent research suggests that women may commit domestic violence because they think they can "get away with it."
  • Research has identified that on many occasions women who feel unheard in their relationship may commit violent acts to get their partner's attention. * According to recent research, men do not perceive violent acts committed against them by female partners as "domestic violence.
  • Individuals use whatever form of violence proves most effective for them: men, with greater physical strength, use direct physical violence, while women are more likely to use weapons in their violent acts against their partners.
  • From a Social Policy perspective it is important to recognize that while there may be equal acts of violence by men and women against one another, there may be heightened danger for women who commit even minor acts of violence due to the potential for retaliation.
  • By inducing shame, as often proscribed in the popular Duluth Model, male perpetrators can be prompted to greater feelings of rage rather than increased feelings of empathy for their victims.
  • In many states couples therapy is prohibited for men who have been involved in domestic violence, even though women have been actively involved in the violence.  This may result in greater danger to women.
  • Family Systems Theory has been useful as it emphasizes the mutual contribution of the partners and interprets mutual effects of violence in the relationship, eliminating assigning fault or negative consequence for any single party in a relationship.
  • Domestic violence is a problem that exists for the couple. It is a system of violence rather than the men's problem.   It is a social and familial problem and should be attended to at that level.



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